Stay Lutheran My Friends!
Reformation Day Heartland Lutheran High School
31 October 2016 Grand Island, NE
+ Jesu Juva +
St. John 8:31-36
What does it take to truly be one of the Lord’s disciples? One of His hangers on? One of His moochers? Before you answer that, you’d better let the Lord Jesus have the say so. Let Him give the final word on what it means to really be one of His followers. Or as the kids say, “one of His dogs.”
The only answer that holds is the one the Lord Jesus gives. You only have a Lutheran Reformation worth anything when you let the Lord’s Word run the show. Right? Of course!
By the way that’s precisely why God created Lutherans – to let His Word have it’s way in the world and in the church. Dr. Luther’s 1521 answer before emperor, princes, bishops and other world big wigs are huge. When commanded to recant or suffer the full weight of the empire and church’s reckoning, he responded: “I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to THE WORD OF GOD.” Bound and captive. Strange words. Dr. Luther was BOUND and CAPTIVE — TO GOD’S WORD! That’s when you have a Reformation! Stay Lutheran my friends. Rejoice in being Lutheran my friends. Teach others what it means to be Lutheran my friends. Dare to be Reformationally-and–Lutheranly-bound-and-captive-to-God’s-Word my friends.
Now, tonight, to you Lutherans who believe in Him, Jesus offers all that He can give to faith. And what’s that? Well, listen to what He categorically declares: “If you abide / remain in / hang on [to] my word, you are truly my disciples.” He gives you His Word! He speaks. You listen. His Word imparts to you the truth and the freedom to live by faith as set-free-for-salvation-sons-of-God. “You will know the truth,” Jesus says, “and the truth will set you free.”
The truth of the Lord’s Word cuts two ways. First, it tells you the ugly and quite unpleasant truth about yourself. What’s that? It’s this: you’re a … SINNER. And even more ugliness: you’re a slave to sin! Living on sin’s plantation. Slaving away under a harsh and relentless Master named Sin! And what is more, you’re totally blind to this deadly situation.
That’s why Jesus speaks. It’s why He has the say so. He dares to go where no one else does. Gets in your grill and calls you out! “You a sinner! A slave to sin!” Sadly, such preaching in the church has gone the way of the T-Rex and the Dodo Bird. But it has to be said. It has to be preached. And you Lutherans had better be doing it. Pronto. Without hesitation. After all, if someone denies that he’s a sinner, won’t confess that he’s a sinner, then he doesn’t need who? Yes, that’s right, Jesus the Savior of sinners! Jesus is the odd man out. And that can only end hellaciously.
So, you’d better listen. “Truly, truly I say to you,” Jesus asserts. Side note: whenever Jesus starts a sermon that way you’d better pay attention. No nodding off like you do in class here at Heartland or during a Bremer or a Mackay sermon. “Truly, truly, I say to you” is Jesus’ shorthand for: “This is of the utmost importance. Pay attention. Wake up. What I’m about to say is salvationly significant! Eternal life vital!” So, heads up everyone! “Truly, truly, I say to you,” Jesus says, “everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.”
There you have it. It’s the truth. The Lord’s true Word about you. Revealing who you are. MRI-ing you. CAT Scanning you. X-raying you. And lo and behold, what you never expected to hear from Dr. Jesus. His diagnosis is this: You’re an-all-have-sinned-and-fallen-short-of-God’s-Glory-sinner. You’re a slave to sin. From which there is no escape. You can try to be a runaway sin-slave, but there’s no getting out of sin’s slavery. Since the fall, everyone is a sinner. Enslaved to sin. Shackled in the idolatry of the self. Chained and housed in the doom of eternal death. “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.”
But then comes the second truth of God’s Word. His strong Word “that bespeaks us righteous bright with Thine own holiness” as we sang in the processional hymn. Yes, Thy Strong Word. It’s the gospel of salvation. The shackles and chains of sin’s slavery and eternal death are broken. Slaves emancipated. In the freedom that Jesus speaks and gives. In the freedom that Jesus gives and speaks!
Because Jesus pulled off a Friday that we all call “Good” – bearing all your sin and the whole lot of its forevermore hellish damnation – doing a Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world on the cross – shedding His divine blood as the only atoning sacrifice — you are no longer a slave. You are now a son. Not just any son but THE ELDEST SON that is given the inheritance – the whole enchilada of salvation from the father. “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
And He has! Thanks be to God. Behold the Baby Jesus that nurses at Mary’s breast. Behold Jesus who dies on the cross, rises from the grave and who now lords over you the salvation / the freedom / the son-ship He won for you.
The freedom / salvation He won for you Good Friday-ly, He now gives to you. Pours it out on you. Through His Word! His Word in which you abide /remain / cling. The Matthew 28 Word hooked with water where you were reborn, saved through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit (Titus 3). Yes, through holy Baptism – marked with the divine and salvific Triune Name — your sins are forgiven and you have received the gift of the Holy Spirit. That’s Peter’s preaching from Acts 2. Then there’s the Lord’s own divine Word of promise from Mark 16:16, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.” Nothing better than clinging to that Word!
And there’s more of this freedom / salvation Word of Jesus. He spoke His Word of absolution into your ears and hearts at the beginning of the service after you confessed the truth of your sin and your being a sinner. In the stead and by the command of Jesus (Matthew 16; 18 and John 20) the pastor spoke Christ’s Word of forgiveness. The Lord’s Word does and gives what it promises: freedom from all your sin! As the Small Catechism correctly teaches you receive the absolution from the pastor as from God Himself, not doubting but firmly believing that by it [the absolution] our sins are forgiven before God in heaven! Isn’t that marvelous?
One more Word of the Lord to abide in as His disciples for good measure. In just a few minutes you’ll hear the Matthew 26; Mark 14 and Luke 22 Word of Jesus Himself hooked with bread and wine. Yes, that’s right, the Lord’s Supper or the Sacrament of the Altar. “Given and shed for you,” Jesus says. FOR YOU talk is gift talk. And what’s the gift? Jesus dishes out His Good Friday and Easter Sunday Body and Blood for you to eat and drink with the bread and wine in your mouth. “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.”
Did you hear that? “For the forgiveness of sins.” That’s His Word. His promise. FOR YOU! THERE’S THE FREEDOM! No longer a slave but a son!
There you have it. The truth and freedom of the Lord’s Word. First, the law. You’re an enslaved sinner. “Everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.” Then the gospel. In the manifold ways it comes. Jesus died FOR YOU the sinner-slave. He is the Savior, your emancipator. “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” He has the Good Friday wounds still on His body to prove it.
Sinner / Forgiven Sinner. Enslaved sinner /Set free sinner.
“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples. You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” Indeed you are. Abiding-in-His-Word-disciples. His hangers on. His dogs. Mooching off of the Lord’s Good Friday word of salvation. Content to be justified before God only by faith in Jesus who died for you. That’s just what the world needs. Just what the church needs. It’s why God raised up a Dr. Luther and created a bunch of Lutherans, even you Missouri-Synod ones. So, stay faithfully Lutheran my friends. Dare to be Reformationally Lutheran my friends. BOUND and CAPTIVE – to the Lord’s Word that sets you free.
Happy Reformation Day!
In the Name of Jesus.